This glam-rocker-and-much-more-besides certainly did some Tear Jerkers. In chronological order:
- "Space Oddity". The tale of a routine space mission, accompanied by sad music and Major Tom philosophizing — and then "Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you" "Heeeeeeere... Am I floating 'round my tin can..."
- In some recordings of the song, the last few lines are omitted, leaving "Can you hear me, Major Tom?" as the last vocals before the song ends, invoking an Uncertain Doom feeling that's arguably even worse.
- In the original music video, as Bowie sings that line, his face shows genuine sadness and concern, it looks almost as if he's about to start crying.
- The true tragedy of this is that the song is two-layered: One is the implied suicide by Major Tom. The other is that the song was released at the very end of The '60s: Depending on interpretation, it's either about drugs or technology, the two great hopes of the Space Age that never delivered on their Utopian promises. "And I think my spaceship knows which way to go..."
- What makes it all hit harder is that the song starts out very positive, with Ground Control praising Tom for having made it to the stars, talking about the fame that awaits him for completing the mission... before Tom goes into an existential crisis and subsequently dies.
- Peter Schilling's "Major Tom", a sequel of sorts to this song, can be even more of a Tear Jerker...
- If you take the interpretation that Major Tom's capsule malfunctioned completely, enjoy imagining his slow, asphyxiating death... Alone.
- There's a Masters of Song Fu challenge that deals with reinterpreting this song, and both have an undertone of loneliness. From Jeff MacDougall's take: "I'm high! / Can you see me? / I'm the blink in the night sky. / I'm not afraid. / Everything's clear. / Tell my wife no need for tears."
- Now in children's book form! And yes, it is somehow more heartbreaking.
- Now that Bowie is no longer with us, these two lines take on a new, very poignant meaning...
- "Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles, I'm feeling very still, and I think my spaceship knows which way to go. Tell my wife I love her very much."
- "She knows."
- Itself heartbreaking, since it implies that either Tom's wife was present at Ground Control, or someone in Ground Control knew Tom very personally and was trying to reassure him in the face of imminent death.
- "God Knows I'm Good", from the Space Oddity album. There is something very sad about the tale of a hungry old lady, forced to compromise her values by shoplifting just so she can eat while rationalizing (hoping?) that God will forgive her for it.
- Also fom Space Oddity: "The Wild-Eyed Boy from Freecloud", which has both a Downer Beginning (the titular "missionary mystic of peace/love" awaits his execution by ignorant villagers) and a Downer Ending (the Genius Loci mountain where the Boy lives saves him with an avalanche that destroys the village—which is the last thing he wanted).
- The imagery in the first verse of "Life on Mars?" (Hunky Dory) is decidedly heartbreaking. It doesn't help that the song is used in some of the more emotionally charged moments of the TV series of the same name.
- If one wasn't affected by "Life on Mars?" before, the certain associations it acquired in the series finale of the eponymous TV show can add a profound sense of sadness to the song.
- As if the original version wasn't sad enough, the one Bowie performed onThe Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is simply devastating.
- And topped even that performance when he sang at a hurricane Katrina benefit concert in 2005. Only a year after his heart attack, a worn-out looking Bowie sang alone on stage with just a piano accompaniment. Ever the showman, his hand was bandaged and his eye was made up like it was bruised- to reflect the pain and loss of the victims.
- The final song of Ziggy Stardust, "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide". The chorus of "Give me your hands!" before the Last Note Nightmare...
- The first song, "Five Years", can be pretty depressing too. (The take of Bowie used for the closing repetitions of the chorus sounds the way it does because he was in tears as he sang.)
- "Ziggy Stardust" itself is sad too; after all, it's about his decline and demise. Made even worse by the Stage live version, which sounds like something fit for a funeral owing to the synthesizers.
- The entire second half of Low. Four slow, quiet, somber, mostly instrumental, intensely saddening songs. Especially "Subterraneans".
- "Subterraneans" and "Warszawa" only get even more tear-jerking when you read about the real-life conditions that inspired them (respectively, the plights of East Berlin and Warsaw at the time of the album's recording). As is usual for these things, Wikipedia has more details.
- "Heroes" is more poignant than gloomy, but still a tearjerker.
- Peter Gabriel's cover (memorably featured on Stranger Things) more so.
- Played at the end of Lone Survivor to a montage of real-life deceased soldiers even more so.
- Used very effectively at the end of the Grand Finale of Regular Show.
- The German version that plays at the end of Jojo Rabbit can have this effect as well, especially when you take that movie's last third into consideration.
- Motörhead's cover. Especially noteworthy since Lemmy and Bowie died within weeks of each other.
- "Ashes to Ashes" (Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)) — there's something about its understated melancholy that gets to some people."I never done good things
I never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue..."
"I heard a rumor from Ground Control
- Some more depressing lines — which reference "Space Oddity" — include:
Oh no, don't say it's true
(Later in song) Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom's a junkie
Strung out in heaven's high
Hitting an all-time low"
- Here's Bowie's take on Bertolt Brecht's "The Drowned Girl" — a cruelly detailed recounting of a demise.
- "Strangers When We Meet" from both The Buddha of Suburbia and 1. Outside is a rather strange example. While it works as a Tear Jerker at the end of the latter musically, its text adds even more to the creepiness of this album if you consider that it's supposed to be sung by the Minotaur character.
- The album version of "Dead Man Walking" from Earthling is a high-energy ear worm. However, the acoustic version makes the lyrics present in the original a clear case of Lyrical Dissonance."And I'm gone, like I'm dancing on angels
And I'm gone, through a crack in the past
Like a dead man walking"
- Many songs from Hours..., especially this live version of "Seven."
- "Thursday's Child", particularly the video, is another sad song — but is, at least, hopeful.
- Many songs from Heathen are tearjerkers, especially the title track.
Did you ever stop and think if there wasn't an Uncle Floyd show, what everyone else would be doing?
- The live version of "Slip Away" is particularly heartbreaking, considering it opens with a clip from The Uncle Floyd Show, the song's subject matter, which is - in a weird way - a mediation on death.
- The opening track, "Sunday", was heart-wrenching enough when it was released. Then Bowie died on January 10th 2016, which fell on a Sunday.
- Reality runs headlong into this.
Well I lost god in a New York minute
- "The Loneliest Guy." Even the title is depressing.
- "Looking For Water" has this gutpunch of a line. It's doubly depressing if you interpret it as being about the September 11th terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.
Don't know about you but my heart's not in it.
- "Days". "Do I need a friend? Well, I need one now..."
- As it became clear that nothing would bring him out of his retirement in The New '10s, the final track, "Bring Me the Disco King" went down as his bittersweet, introspective swan song...and then, nearly ten years later, The Next Day said otherwise.
- The sudden relaunch of the official website, the announcement of The Next Day, and release of its first video on January 8, 2013 jerked a lot of tears worldwide. That "Where Are We Now?" turned out to be such a poignant song/video — specifically the full-body reveal of a melancholy-looking Bowie on the "As long as there's me" line — only made it worse.
- His death makes certain lyrics in his last album, ★ (especially in the Title Track), haunting due to the factor that his cancer had been diagnosed 18 months before the album's release.Look up here, Im in heaven
Ive got scars that cant be seen
Ive got drama, cant be stolen
Everybody knows me now
This way or no way
You know, Ill be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain't that just like me? ("Lazarus")
- The video for "Lazarus", with Bowie singing from a hospital bed, is starting to take on an eerie resonance in the wake of his death.
I know something is very wrong
- If only to concur with how much of a (only just) retroactive tearjerker these lyrics were, The BBC released a sequel to their "David Bowie: Five Years" documentary which they titled "David Bowie: The Last Five Years". Set to images of fans attending his memorial, were those (and the next few) lines from Blackstar. Just Bowie's (acapella) singing, the images and nothing else besides spoken audio quotes from the man himself for the first minute.
- The lyrics of the final track, "I Can't Give Everything Away", as well as the general feel of the song itself, are especially this after his death. The song could be interpreted as his final farewell message to all of his fans over the years.
The pulse returns for prodigal sons
The blackout's hearts with flowered news
With skull designs upon my shoes
Seeing more and feeling less
Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That's the message that I sent
I can't give everything
I can't give everything